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Policy Exclusion for Failure to Turn off Water

August 4, 2020

In Katopothis v. Windsor-Mount Joy Mut. Ins. Co., the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reviewed an exclusion in a homeowner’s policy that required the insured to either maintain heat in the home and turn off the water supply or turn off the water supply and drain the fixtures if leaving the residence vacant for more than 72 hours.  The Court upheld the District Court’s decision to grant summary judgment, noting that the policy was not vague and was not in conflict with public policy.

It is further worth noting that while the Plaintiff argued that the exclusion was designed to prevent water damage from frozen pipes (and in this case the rupture was not due to freezing temperatures), nothing in the policy language itself set forth such a limitation.  Therefore the Plaintiff’s “logical explanation” for the exclusion did not prevent summary judgment.  This highlights the importance of reviewing the specific policy language, even if at first blush a loss does not seem to be excluded from coverage.